Experiencing holidays abroad can be both enlightening and disappointing for the world traveler. In China, Western tourists can expect to witness a very different approach to their own holidays than they would find traveling in other regions. Christmas in China is not widely celebrated as a religious holiday, but the commercial aspects of the season are alive and well in more cosmopolitan areas.
If you're planning a December adventure to China, here are 10 useful travel tips you should know about Christmastime in China.
1. Top Destinations for Christmas Travel in China
Christmas is an ideal travel time for a less crowded environment because it is not a public holiday in China. Here we recommend six destinations for your Christmas holiday, from the “Ice City” to the sunny tropical seaside.
1) Beijing — a Capital Christmas Choice!
Kick off your Christmas holiday with an exciting ski trip. As the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing provides excellent venues for skiing.
- Enjoy an Olympic-level skiing experience in Chongli Thaiwoo Ski Resort.
- See great snowy scenery, especially at the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
See more Top Beijing Ski Resorts.
2) Harbin — the Winter Wonderland
If you want a romantic and beautiful Christmas, we recommend “Ice City” Harbin.
- Enter the fabulous Ice and Snow World to see numerous ice sculptures of huge proportions with Christmas decorations, dazzling colors, and light effects.
- Snow brightens up the Christmas vibe. See a dreamy snowy village and landscape and enjoy the fun of playing in the snow in China Snow Town.
- Ski in Yabuli Ski Resort — the primary training venue for China's national teams.
- 1-Day Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival Tour
- 5-Day Harbin and China Snow Town Tour
- 7-Day Harbin, Yabuli, China Snow Town, and Jilin Tour
- 7-Day Harbin, China Snow Town, and Changbai Mountain Tour
3) Tibet — Celebrate Christmas on Everest
If you haven't been to Tibet for some reasons before, then Christmas is a great opportunity. December was quiet and peaceful in Tibet. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, bonfires and Tibetan dances, you will have an unforgettable Christmas.
- Travel to Everest Base camp, and witness the starry sky
- Explore the less-touristy corners of Barkhor Street
- Discover the architectural miracle — the Potala Palace
- Hike to see a hidden small lake surrounded by mountains with a huge glacier
4) Yunnan — an Exotic Escape
Spending Christmas in a warm exotic place sounds great, doesn't it?
- Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking — discover one of the most magnificent gorges in China
- In Xishuangbanna, you can explore the rainforest and visit a local ethnic village.
- Go to Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang to enjoy the landscapes, history, and minority cultures of Yunnan.
- Travel to much-less-traveled places — the Nu River and Tengchong. There you will enjoy the best volcanic hot spring, see the "the last untamed river in China", and feel the charm of ethnic minorities in Northwest Yunnan.
- 3-Day Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking
- 6-Day Xishuangbanna and Pu'er Tour
- 7-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Winter Tour
- 8-Day Yunnan Tour of the Nu River and Tengchong
5) Sanya — Get Away to Tropical Beaches
You can enjoy a tropical Christmas in Sanya with glorious sunshine, beautiful beaches, and romantic islands.
- There, you can have fun in the sparkling blue ocean.
- Try some exciting watersports, like banana boats, water scooters, and sailing.
- Get away from the crowds at a private beach and enjoy peaceful relaxation.
- Fly over the forest by zipline and discover a tropical forest.
- Shop for duty-free commodities.
6) Chengdu — Double Your Enjoyment
You could have the dual enjoyments of sights and tastes, cold and heat for your Christmas holiday in Chengdu.
- There you can travel across time and space to the "Ice Age" and touch the huge glacier in Hailuogou.
- Soak in a hot spring hidden in a snowy valley.
- Ski in Bipenggou Ski Resort — the most beautiful ski resort near Chengdu.
- Then, let hot pot spice dispel the cold and chili the chill of winter.
- Let cute pandas warm your heart.
More inspiration for your Christmas holiday, see:
- Top 7 Places to Visit in December in China
- China Winter Guide (Places to Go, Activities, Suggestions)
- Contact us to tailor-make your Christmas trip
2. Many cities will have Christmas celebrations.
Christmas celebrations in China are more of a joyous, lively atmosphere than a traditional cultural phenomenon. In many cities, Christmas trees, lights, and decorations are put up on the streets and in department stores.
Many scenic spots will hold Christmas events such as Christmas shows and firework shows.
Here we list some of the best Christmas activities in Mainland China for if you just want to stay in a major city and celebrate.
- Gubei Water Town: Christmas bazaar, Christmas show, Christmas parade, Christmas dinner, and a magical night tour on the Simatai Great Wall
- Sanlitun: bar street, shopping
- See Christmas in Beijing
- Shanghai Disneyland: Christmas-themed activities and shows
- Various Christmas markets: Tonglefang Christmas market, Moller Villa Christmas market, Joy City Christmas market, etc.
- See Christmas in Shanghai
- Chimelong Paradise: Christmas parade, "flash mob" show, beautiful Christmas decorations
- Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Christmas worship
- See Christmas in Guangzhou
3. Domestic travel prices are low at Christmastime.
The month of December can be incredibly cold in northern China. It is also a time without any official Chinese holidays to contend with, meaning domestic travel during this time is fairly cheap (except in Hong Kong and Macau).
While the price of your international flight to get to and from China is sure to go up, the low cost of travel around China at that time will help to balance out the difference.
4. Winter sports and ice festivals are popular activities during the Christmas season.
If you're worried about missing out on favorite holiday activities while traveling in China, you can put your fears to rest.
China is known internationally for its impressive ice festivals and winter sports. Ice skating, skiing, and more can be found in the northern mountain areas of China. While the famous Harbin Ice Festival is known around the world for its beauty and architectural wonders.
Recommended Skiing Tours
- 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour — Skiing in a 2022 Olympic Winter Games Venue
- 6-Day Harbin City Highlights and Yabuli Skiing Tour — Skiing in China’s Largest Ski Resort
5. Christmas is a public holiday in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
While there is no official recognition of Christmas in mainland China, if you are traveling in Hong Kong Macau, or Taiwan you can expect similar schedules as you would find at home. The public holiday varies whether you are in Taiwan or Hong Kong but is generally observed by many. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to visit any city museums of conduct any banking during your travels.
6. Christmas is a great time to connect with expat communities.
In larger cities, specifically in Beijing and on the eastern coast, Christmas is celebrated by the growing expat communities.
If you're traveling during the holiday season in one of China's more international cities, it's a perfect time to reach out to the expats living in that area. Events such as Christmas parties, gift exchanges, caroling, and more are easy to find within expat communities in China. If you're hoping to experience the warmth of the season while abroad, it's best to connect with those around you.
7. Northern China has a Russian Christmas and southern China has a British Christmas.
In cities like Harbin and Shenyang, the celebration of Christmas is heavily influenced by the close proximity to the Russian border. On the other side of China, in Hong Kong and Macau, you can see a much more British looking Christmas thanks to the colonialism of the area by the United Kingdom.
Recommended Harbin Tours
In northern China you are likely to see Russian style decorations, foods, and expat celebrations. Whereas in the South you will see people celebrating the British Boxing Day and popping crackers with their family.
8. Online shopping deals rival American Black Friday.
If traveling during the holidays has you sad about missing those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, China will not disappoint.
The Chinese equivalent of Black Friday, known as Single's Day, actually sees a greater amount of online sales than any other global shopping day. If you are looking to score amazing souvenirs or standard Black Friday deals, shopping during this time is sure to make you smile. Enlist the help of a native friend to browse sites like TaoBao (Chinese Amazon) to experience what it's like to shop online during the Chinese holidays.
9. There are two ways to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Chinese.
Wishing someone a Merry Christmas can look two different ways in China, depending on their religious affiliations.
圣诞快乐 (Sheng Dan kuaile) meaning "Holy Birth Happiness" is a common greeting used to wish someone a happy Christmas in China. The other greeting that is commonly used is considered the more religious option.
耶诞快乐 (Ye Dan kuaile) actually uses the transliteration of the name Jesus to create the phrase "Jesus Birth Happiness" which is also a popular Christmas greeting.
No matter which you prefer, learning this simple holiday greeting is a great idea for anyone traveling through China during the Christmas season.
10. Apples are considered a traditional gift for Christmas Eve celebrations.
As Christmas continues to grow in popularity in China, new traditions are emerging in Chinese families who choose to celebrate the holiday. One such tradition is the gifting of apples on the night before Christmas.
The tradition comes from a coincidence found in the Chinese language. The word used to translate "peace" in the Chinese for "peaceful night" or "Christmas Eve" is pronounced similarly to the Chinese word for apple. Apples with Christmas scenes or relevant Chinese characters carved into them can be found for sale in the days before Christmas Eve.
If you are traveling in China during this time, be sure to share in the spirit by gifting and receiving the traditional Christmas Eve apples with friends.
Plan Your Christmas Vacation with Us
Our most recommended customizable ice and snow tours:
- 7-Day Harbin, China Snow Town, and Changbai Mountain Tour — Fascinating Changbai Mountain
- 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour — Skiing in a 2022 Olympic Winter Games Venue
- 5-Day Chengdu and Hailuogou Tour — a Song of Ice and Fire
Our top recommended customizable warm winter tours:
- 5-Day Sanya Tour with the Best Beach — a Feast of Sea, Shore, and Sun
- 6-Day Xishuangbanna and Pu'er Tour — Escape to the Rainforest
- 7-Day Kunming, Dali and Lijiang Winter Tour — A Warm Winter Trip in Yunnan
- 8-Day Yunnan Tour of the Nu River and Tengchong — Discover Northwest Yunnan
Or contact us if you have any questions or requirements to design a tour.